A Glorious Church
A couple of thousand years ago an obscure teacher in Israel announced to his disciples that he would build his assembly, his church, his ekklesia. He was not talking about a synagogue, a fraternal order, or a major corporation--so his announcement must have sounded incongruous to his students. Yet they readily followed him to their deaths and became martyrs to his cause in the decades after their teacher departed.
Fast forward two thousand years: Is there any evidence that what Jesus had announced He would do would ever come to pass?
One huge world wide very rich institution has long claimed that the Apostle Peter was commissioned to be the first head of that body. But Peter was killed in Rome about 30 years later along with the Apostle Paul, and no church entity or building would appear on earth until nearly 300 years after Peter and Paul were executed. Nevertheless, thousands of ordinary people in the Roman Empire became followers of Jesus in the first three centuries, and obviously many more down to today. No one man-made institution in the world can claim to be the church Jesus is building!
When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”This passage has been debated and analyzed for centuries! It seems reasonable that there is indeed a play on words here between the Greek words Petros and petra. This position is well known.
So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, (Petros) and on this rock (petra) I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
Then He commanded His disciples that they should tell no one that He was Jesus the Christ. (Matthew 16:13-20)
The likely meaning of "the keys of the kingdom of heaven" is more subtle. The keys are evidently not a reference to temporal power and authority. They are keys to what Jesus would do, in the invisible realm, for 2000 years ("the heavenlies"). Jesus is obviously alive and well now, seated at the right-hand of God.
My friend and colleague, Bryce Self comments,
"See our recent discussion of Shebna vs Eliakim in Isaiah 22 re: Jesus in Revelation 3 to Philadelphia — the key of the house of David. The kingdom of David was, at least by intention, the proleptic (initial & partial) expression of the Kingdom of God. Jesus will fulfill this completely when He finally sits on the throne of His father David in Jerusalem, to rule the nations. This is the biblical setting in context of origin and teleology of the concept for allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture.
"This understanding must inform what Jesus says at Caesarea Philippi in response to Peter’s confession. The meaning cannot be relates to later traditional rabbinical excommunication from the synagogue, an idea in wide circulation at present. Nor does if have to do with spiritual warfare, casting out demons,and binding spiritual principalities and powers—another popular idea. Jesus is responding to Peter but addressing Himself to the entire Twelve, speaking of their future stewardship in being the foundation of the Church, especially in critical times of Holy Spirit-inspired initial/ultimate decisions like the Jerusalem conference of Acts 15."
See Three Stewards over God's House: Shebna, Eliakim, and Jesus
Could it be that the true church has really been "under construction" silently and invisibly all this time? Yes, surely! Is it possible Jesus said what He meant and meant what He said?
Yes, Jesus has in fact been building a glorious invisible cathedral of people to be unveiled at the end of the age. The Administrative task of managing His entire church has been no problem for Jesus. We just can't correlate the present workings of God behind the scenes very well with unfolding events in history. When Jesus takes the wraps off the finished product everyone will see. The true church will number perhaps one or two billion men, women and children, all with glorious new, immortal bodies, "A glorious church without spot or wrinkle."
To understand what Jesus has been building consider the seven symbols the New Testament uses to describe how Jesus has been at work for 2000 doing exactly what He said He would do.
The true church Jesus is now calling out of the world, is symbolized in the New Testament by seven figures:
“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” Jesus used this illustration, but they did not understand the things which He spoke to them. (John 10:1-18)
Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.
“Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.”
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.
“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” (John 15:1-8)
"Open to me the gates of righteousness; I will go through them, And I will praise the Lord. This is the gate of the Lord, Through which the righteous shall enter. 'I will praise You, For You have answered me, And have become my salvation.' The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing; It is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day the Lord has made;
We will rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalms 118:19-24
"Therefore thus says the Lord God: 'Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, A tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; Whoever believes will not be in haste. Also I will make justice the measuring line, And righteousness the plummet; The hail will sweep away the refuge of lies, And the waters will overflow the hiding place. (Isaiah 28:16-17)
“Come to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, 'Behold, I lay in Zion A chief cornerstone, elect, precious, And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.' Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, 'The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone,' and 'A stone of stumbling And a rock of offense. They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed. But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.“ (1 Peter 2:4-10)
Our Lord Jesus is also described as a merchant who finds and buys a single pearl of great price
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13:45)
“Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:14-16)
"Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands— that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father." (1 Corinthians 12:12-18)
For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased." (Ephesians 2:11-18)
“...For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 11:2)
“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.” (Ephesians 5:22-27)
“Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, “Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal. Also she had a great and high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, and three gates on the west...” (Revelation 21:9-13)
The true church is never said to be a physical building nor an organization, according to the Bible. The foundation of the true church was put in place at the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, about 30 AD. Jesus Himself is the Foundation, and the church is made up of living stones. Since Jesus is alive today and occupying the highest office in the universe, according to Hebrews Chapter One, his Lordship over the entire church should be self evident. Sadly probably 80% of the people who have ever lived have refused God’s mercy all their lives—and perished. Members of the true church are not the only group of people who have been or will be saved.
Many millions probably were rescued by God’s mercy in the time interval between Adam and Noah. (Creation date was probably 5793 BC). After the Flood, world population climbed back up from eight persons to perhaps 10 million people by the time of Abraham. (He lived about 2305 BC). The church is unique in all of history compared to every other group of rescued believers: believers saved before the Flood, believers after the Flood, descendants of Abraham, (believing Israelites and proselytes,and scattered individuals everywhere who have come to know Christ as members of the Elect of God. Those saved into the church are "members one of another," "members of the Body of Christ," members of the "Bride of Christ." Each member of the true church has one or more of the Spiritual Gifts.
Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious. You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture,
“Behold, I lay in Zion
A chief cornerstone, elect, precious,
And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.”
Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient,
“The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief cornerstone,” “A stone of stumbling
And a rock of offense.”
They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed. But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. (1 Peter 2:1-10)
From Abraham’s day to Jesus perhaps 300 million people total were brought into God’s extended family. These estimates are rough guesses of course. Surely we all hope many more than 10% of the persons in the world will have been brought into God’s forever family by the end. God is not willing that any should perish, but no one gets in against their will!
World population at time Jesus was here on earth with us was about 300 million people. Since then our planet has grown to the present 7.7 billion. We’ll see a major population decrease after Jesus removes his church to safety. Then two major events will follow. The first of these will be a seven year transition interval know as the Tribulation period followed by a Thousand Year direct reign on earth by Jesus with his Bride the true church.
Back to the present “dispensation,”—usually called the “church age” — the interval during which Jesus said He would build his church.
To illustrate the construction of the invisible church down through the past two millennia, think of generation-by-generation construction increments. From 30 AD to perhaps 80 or 100 AD we might guess than 10% of the total world (300 million) entered into a personal relationship with Jesus and became the foundation of the church. The “cornerstone” is Jesus and the Apostles. They were of all ages and from every nation. Some died young, some died of old age. Some were martyred. But each time a follower of Jesus dies, he or she leaves historical time and time travels to the future event known as the Rapture of the church, gaining a new body on the way. Therefore every follower of Jesus arrives in New Jerusalem (“heaven”) at the same “time.” The true church will not, however, be presented to the world until seven years later. The total number of members in the completed church will probably exceed a billion persons, perhaps more. Full disclosure when Jesus returns will be very notable event.
Quite likely the world was ushered recently into a new dispensation described in Ephesians 1. In any case God is intensely personal, and always has been.
God manages His household differently for each group as Ray Stedman explains. The intervals are called "Dispensations" in theology.
Notes Added 1/7/2021: If a generation is about 40 years, then 50 generations have elapsed since Jesus walked the shores of Galilee. During that time, world population has increased from about 300 million in the First Century to more than 7.8 billion now. We can make a rough estimate of how many people will be in the finished church which Jesus is now calling out of the world. World population at the time of Jesus was about 300 million persons. Presently nearly 8000 million (8 billion) live on the planet. Assuming a generation is 40 years, about 23000 million (23 billion) people total have been born, have grown up and have died, in the past 2000 years. If we arbitrarily suggest 10% of the people per generation come to know Jesus and are "saved," a church of 5 billion members is reasonable.
(The Church is the gentile Bride of Christ whereas Israel is a separate group -- namely, she is the "wife of Yahweh." God has always brought people to Himself from the beginning. But this is a separate discussion.)
The Church apparently will live an orbiting City, New Jerusalem, with plenty of room there for everyone. Jesus Himself went on ahead to prepare a place for His Bride. The church is men, women, children, from every tribe and nation and from 50 generations, so how Jesus will manage this group remains to be seen. One suggestion is that the City may be divided into something like "parishes."
Please note that the “dead in Christ will be raised first” —-
"But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord."
There will be a large group of us believers waiting on earth when the day of the rapture takes place. Today with 7800 million people on earth, if 10% know Jesus, then the waiting remnant might be 780 million people or so. We may not be missed down below, however. The major news sources may not take note of the fact that our troublesome minority group has disappeared! Some will probably say that an alienation abduction took place.
If the Rapture were to happen today we’ll be meeting in person those mentors and teachers we knew from the previous generation before ours. We'll also meet all the followers of Jesus down through history who died before us! This may not be completely a "public" event since God respects our individual, privacy integrity and "space."
Our entry into New Jerusalem will be preceded by an evaluation procedure, the Judgment Seat of Christ. It won't be about sin--it's a performance evalulation and awards event.
The resurrection of the dead in Christ is called the “First Resurrection.” It is led by Jesus Himself. He has already been raised.
But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. (1 Corinthians 15:20-21)For followers of Jesus today, we know Jesus was raised from the dead three days after Passover AD 30. He ascended to heaven 50 days later and is there now. He has a new body at present. Everyone who knows Jesus now has a new body already prepared and ready--which he or she puts on when Jesus returns.
But someone will say, “How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come?” Foolish one, what you sow is not made alive unless it dies. And what you sow, you do not sow that body that shall be, but mere grain—perhaps wheat or some other grain. But God gives it a body as He pleases, and to each seed its own body. All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of animals, another of fish, and another of birds. There are also celestial bodies and terrestrial bodies; but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differs from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”“O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
A Glorious Church Without Spot or Wrinkle
Churches as Cabals
The Rapture and the Second Coming
If the Rapture Happened Today
The Wife of Jehovah and the Bride of Christ
The Judgment Seat of Christ
The Great Harlot
The Last Church Before the Rapture
The Left Behind
Population Decrease Ahead
Spiritual Gifts and Body Life
Some Notes about Heaven
Israel and the Church - My Body: The Church - Chuck Missler
The Church in the End Times - Chuck Missler
The Once And Future Church - Chuck Missler
January 10, 2020. July 21, 2020. December 21, 2020.